The country’s largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group has pulled its 2009 annual convention out of Kansas City.
The board of directors of the National Council of La Raza on Saturday authorized La Raza’s president and CEO Janet Murguia to make the move after a prolonged controversy centering on the appointment of a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps to a city commission. The Minutemento patrol the U.S.–Mexico border—often armed—in an attempt to keep illegal immigrants from crossing into the U.S. Groups like La Raza have portrayed the Minutemen as vigilantes with a racist agenda.
In a statement announcing the decision, Murguia criticized Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser (who made the now-controversial appointment) for failing to remove Frances Semler from the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners.
“Joining the Minutemen because you have an issue with illegal immigration is like joining a white supremacist group because you have an issue with affirmative action,” said Murguia in her statement. She also mentioned the support her group has received from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is also looking at moving its 2010 convention out of Kansas City.
La Raza’s convention was expected to attract more than 2,000 attendees and provide an economic impact of $5 million for Kansas City. According to published reports, the Hispanic group has already been in contact with Las Vegas convention officials to discuss moving the 2009 convention there.
In an interview conducted prior to La Raza’s vote, Rick Hughes, president of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association, expressed confidence that Kansas City would fill La Raza’s dates but lamented that La Raza’s cancellation could adversely affect conventions like those of the NAACP.
“We’ve had a lot of success attracting groups from the multicultural market,” said Hughes. “Our geography, the hospitality and value package we provide, and the fact that we are a forward-thinking community have made us more attractive to these groups. People in the community worked on the La Raza piece for a number of years, and to [see it get pulled] is disappointing.”